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the schooling of a maker

Every year I draw an angel card from a bucket at my yoga studio. If you’re not familiar they are these small little cards with a single word on them. Risk. Beauty. Gratitude. Acceptance. Faith. Once I draw a card, it’s the word I get to reflect on and be with all year. More often than not, it reveals itself slowly and I only really understand the full meaning at the end, when I look back at the year through that lens.

Some people very intentionally choose their word of the year. I admire that. But as one who tends to overthink these things and stress myself the F out trying to come up with the *perfect* word (#enneagram1 🙋‍♀️), I’ve found it best to let the Universe decide for me. And decide it does. And beautifully so.

This year my word was education. I thought about it only sporadically throughout the year. Only a handful of things fit neatly within the educational theme.

An online course that I hemmed and hawed over before making the commitment because I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the investment. But because I was working on adopting a more abundant money mindset and because my word of the year was education, I went for it. And like most beautiful things in life, it was not what I expected and exactly what I needed. Practical strategy blended with mindset work, self care, and a grounded optimism in what is possible. And it taught me to invest in myself.

Other random classes. A metalworking jewelry class that taught me that work is probably not for me. A ceramics class, my first in over a decade, that taught me, oh yes, despite being rusty, this is still very much for me.

Turning 40. Simply taught me that there’s nowhere, no one, and no age I’d rather be than exactly where and who I am now.

But really the way education most potently showed up for me this year, and the reason I didn’t immediately recognize as such, is because it showed up in my least favorite way.

Trial and error.

Give me the notebooks. Give me the textbooks. The study guides. I’m all over it. But put me out there in the real world for everyone to see and possibly fail in front of? No thank you.

And yet it’s been my most powerful teacher. Showing up. Doing the work. Trying new things. Clumsily, ungracefully, and with considerable struggle, letting go of old things that just aren’t working.

There were the triumphs. Work that felt personal, deep, and meaningful. Creating a website that feels so beautifully representative of me and my work, my own little lovely corner of the internet that I get to invite people into, where deep meaning meets pretty things. Collections that sold out practically overnight. Buying a house that means I now have a whole room as a studio and workspace. Markets that brought record sales. Collaborations that felt connected and aligned. Lively and lovely workshops. Meeting makers, irl and online, that inspire me to no end. And a lot of shopping handmade.

And there were the failures. Purchasing quickbooks, taking the course, feeling confident that yes I too can use actual bookkeeping software like a real legit adult and businessperson, trying to make it work. Tears and frustrations later, quitting quickbooks and going back to my pen and notebook accounting system. A workshop no one showed up for. A launch that fell flat. And by fell flat, I do mean that not one thing sold. Markets with lackluster sales. Markets with sales so lackluster, I sold one item in 5 hours. Getting my change bank stolen. Getting rejected by one of those big, fancy markets. Getting rejected by a cool, hip online market. Collaborations that, through no one’s fault, just never really went anywhere. Display ideas that didn’t pan out. Design ideas left unmade. Self care abandoned.

The highlights and the heartbreaks. All educational. All part of the sometimes joyful, sometimes painful schooling of a maker.

And I thank the Universe for all of it. Because as much as I am sometimes more comfortable learning from a book or in a classroom, if I look back in honest assessment, a lot of the times that’s where that knowledge stayed. Oftentimes I never took it out for a spin. I never brought it out of the classroom and into the real world. So as much as trial and error is not so much in my comfort zone, and the best things in life usually aren’t, it absolutely has been my very best teacher.

Looking forward to seeing what word and what lessons 2020 brings.

1 comment

  • Dear Dawn,

    It was with great interest I listened to episode 171 of The Unruffled Podcast and read your musings on Elevate’s website. The special gift you share with us as a soft spoken, up-lifting yoga instructor at PHY is much appreciated. You are truly an exceptionally interesting and excellent person extraordinaire with many talents, a breath of fresh air to all who are lucky enough to be in your orbit.

    Being a Bay Area transplant myself, I wish you and your husband the best as you enjoy your home in its leafy Sacramento neighborhood.

    Greg Smith

    Greg Smith

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